10 February 2021

Twitter suspends more accounts in India over farmers’ protests

10 February 2021

Twitter has suspended more accounts in India after it was served with several separate blocking orders by the government in New Delhi in the last 10 days related to mass protests by farmers.

The social media company said that the accounts will continue to be accessible outside India.

None of the suspended accounts belonged to journalists, news organisations, activists and politicians, as doing so “would violate their fundamental right to free expression under Indian law”, the company said.

India Farmers (AP)

The latest move comes after Twitter temporarily blocked hundreds of accounts, including those of news websites, activists and a prominent opposition parliamentarian last week.

Following an outcry online over the move, the company subsequently restored access to these accounts, prompting the Indian ministry of electronics and information technology to serve it with a non-compliance notice.

The clampdown on Twitter accounts comes as thousands of farmers have amassed outside New Delhi for more than two months in a strike against new agricultural laws which they say will devastate their earnings.

The government has said the laws will boost production through private investment.

Critics say Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party has used the demonstrations to escalate a crackdown on free speech.

The largely peaceful rallies turned violent on January 26 after a group of farmers veered from an agreed protest route and stormed New Delhi’s 17th century Red Fort.

Hundreds of police and farmers were injured in clashes.

India Farmer Protests (AP)

In an order to Twitter last week, the government identified a number of accounts they say used provocative hashtags to spread misinformation on the protests as well as incite violence.

The government invoked an IT law under which it has the power to direct online intermediaries and internet service providers to block certain content without providing any explanation.

In its statement on Wednesday, Twitter said it has taken steps to “reduce the visibility of the hashtags containing harmful content” by preventing them from trending on the platform.

It also said it has taken action against more than 500 accounts, including permanent suspension for some, over violations of Twitter’s rules.

“We will continue to maintain dialogue with the Indian government and respectfully engage with them,” the company said.

The best videos delivered daily

Watch the stories that matter, right from your inbox